If you have to ask you'll never know ! [L.Armstrong]... thats Louis not Lance.

Jan 29, 2008

Tennis Anyone ?

Archie and Jughead would be nice to Veronica’s Dad so that he would let them use his pool and tennis court. We would nice to everyone [when our parents were around]. But nobody let us use either pool or tennis court. Because nobody had one. If you wanted to go swimming you jumped into the sea at Carter Road. Or waited for school to organize a trip to the Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool at Dadar. With it’s always broken down filtration plant. With frogs that jumped out of your way while you emulated Mark Spitz. { tried to.} With showers that left you feeling grimier than when the trickle of water first emerged. Then St. Stanislaus opened their pool. Which had been shut down aeons ago. Because someone was supposed to have died in it. And quickly shut it down again because water was too scarce. So between the time that St. Stanislaus shut down their pool and the Dmonte Park recreation centre opened their’s [ approx. twenty years.] We played Gilli dandu. Gilli dandu and seven tiles and Atti Patti and Jack and the monkey and blind mans buff when it rained. Up and down the staircase with acrobatics normally seen only in Apollo or Gemini circii.
Tops and marbles. Tops for which we made flat spikes. A spike being the point your top spun on. We’d take carpentery screws to Bandra station. Place it on the track and wait for a passing train. The train would have flattened out the head of the screw. Leaving the threads intact. It would have also sent the screw flying and you had scout for the screw between tracks and passing trains while doing your best to stay out of the cupboard near the cycle stand.You then filed the flattened edge down to a knife like sharpness. This was then threaded into your top. And when you cracked you top down on your opponents tops, it would split them like a ripe mango that slipped thru the jowla. { Net bag used for catching mangoes } .
Marbles we could play at home.[ When grounded]. Cement tiles were easy enough to make a gull in. A gull being the hole into which you had to get your marble from a pre determined distance. You could only play marbles when Mummy was asleep or out. We’d drilled the gull below the sofa. And the inhabitants of Alcatraz would have been proud of our skill at concealment.
We’d play table tennis on the dining table. With books opened out on edge to form the net. War and Peace made for a good section of the net because it held up to hard smashes. The Readers Digest’s tended to foldover with even a little topspin. If you stamped the ball it squashed. To unsquash it you had to boil it. God help you if the powers that be found you using the milk chatti for this.
Your place at the game was determined by a game of rounders. Which had to be played without waking parents who were indulging in a Sunday afternoon siesta. So you ran around the table on tippy toes. Trying to keep the ball in play longer than assorted siblings and neighbours. Neighbours whose dining table was positioned against the wall or who had that all time classic . The folding dining table. The Wibledon open was never as keenly contested . The only reason play would be abandoned would be if the squashed ball refused to come unsquashed and all the water in the milk chatti evaporated.

Jan 26, 2008

Somebody stole my Bike !

Parked the bike on St. Pauls Road last evening. 8.30 in the evening. Lots of traffic from Hill road towards Perry road. Went to see a friend. Got back at 9.30 after having imbibed some smooth rum. No bike. This is not the old Java that Johnny Mario made into a lean mean killer machine. But my almost new Avenger. Am I looking in the right place ? Did I forget where I parked it ? Is somebody playing a prank on me ? Did I have too much rum?Went into all the roads close by. Asked sleepy watchmen if they’d seen my easy rider . Then went home and got the bike papers with engine no. chassis no. etc. etc. and headed to the cop station. Cop said maybe it’s been towed. So headed on to the RTO station . No bike. Back to the cop station . Registered my loss. Silver Avenger. Value Rs.70,000. No. MH-O2-AS-2661. Chassis no. MD2DGDVZZMCK02638. Engine no. DVGBMK16923. The cop kept getting interrupted by a woman who was screaming at this man that the cops would settle him now. Then they were interrupted by somebody complaining about the noise from the Bandra Gym republic day dance. It was 11.30 p.m. by now. Cop promised to put it out on the wireless and all the naka bandhis would be watching out for my Avenger. Yeah! Sure! Screaming woman took my vacated seat and launched into a tirade that would have been interesting if my bike was’nt MIA. Took a rick home. My wife says don’t look on this as a sign from God to buy an Enfield.. And that’s the silver lining.


BIKE RECOVERED
24 HRS LATER. Drove down Chimbai revisiting the scene of the crime. And there parked forlornly against a tree was my bike. Wires stripped out for hotwiring. Fuel tank close to empty. One turning indicator damaged. Nothing Johnny Mario cant fix. Wife says it's her prayers to St. Anthony that got the bike back. If it is . Thank you St. Anthony. Went to the police station and cancelled the complaint so that the cops don't arrest me for driving my own bike. This morning went for a long ride on the Reclaimation promenade to celebrate the Return of the Avenger.

Jan 24, 2008

No space on the loft and Steve Jobs is responsible..

Our language is English. Our religion is Christianity. Our grandmothers are Portugese. [ If you’re Goans i.e. ] . Our music ? If you were born Catholic every Non Catholic assumed that there two things you could do well for sure. That you could sing and that you could dance. Whatever you did music was some part of your day. The early morning when you tuned in to Radio Ceylon. Yes Sri Lanka now Ceylon then used to have more English music than all of India. So you had an antenna on your roof. Copper wire that went around the four corners of a wooden frame in ever diminishing squares. You put the radio on and waited two whole minutes for the valves to warm up. Static [ the crackle you got from shortwave radios ] interspersed the music to come up with compostions that improved on the original. On Sunday afternoons you tuned in to the Binaca Hit Parade. One of two English music programmes that AIR [ All India Radio ] broadcast all week. There was the odd broadcast of Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky at an hour way past bedtime when no self respecting Hindustani musician would be at the AIR studios. [Most regional broadcasts were live ]. Old Parsees tuned in for Tchai with their brun maska.The second programme was Saturday date. A request and dedication programme. Where you had to mail in your request which was always ignored but the dedication they read over the AIR. Too many request too little time. So Uncles celebrating wedding anniversaries were clubbed together with Joe Boys 16th birthday and both of them were made to listen to Your’e Sixteen you’re beautiful and you’re mine.
If you were from the privileged classes [ rich i.e.] then your Dad had a record player. With the logo of a dog singing into the gramophone horn. Only he was allowed to touch the player. And the records. Delicate stuff. One slip of the needle and the record was marred for life. So the music you listened to was the music he listened to. Soon the record player was on the loft. And pride of place was given to the cassette player. Cassettes onto which you could actually record your own voice. Cassettes onto which you could record music from someone else’s cassettes. Cassettes onto which you could record the Binaca Hit Parade and play it back whenever you wanted. But once in a while the tape from the cassette would get pulled out. You had to retrieve it. Cut out the wrinkled section. Then use your fevicol or Mom’s nail polish to splice the broken ends together. John Lennon would then have daylight saving time on A hard days night. You used head cleaner fluid to clean the tape head and vodka when you ran out of head cleaner. And debated endlessly whether vodka was a better head cleaner than gin. The coloured spirits were all out because they were supposed to leave a residue. And then came CD’s and the cassette player soon took the place of the record player which was handed over to the Jaripurana walla. But you still needed head cleaner , for the CD lens. But you could now use Smirnoff instead of Romanov.
Then Apple invented the Ipod and now the Smirnoff goes into a glass instead of the CD player and the Jaripurana walla does’nt even want the old cassette player . Which you’re getting rid of to free up loft space for the CD player.

Jan 23, 2008

R.I.P.

To get to college we used the train, to get to the train we used a cycle. At the point of transition in our modes of transport we needed a place to park our cycle. Right opposite the Bandra Station Falooda walla is the entrance to the cycle stand. We’d wheel our cycle into this gully because there were always too many cycles coming and going to be able to ride in. Halfway down this path was a cupboard. Built into the wall. A simple cupboard 7 ft. x 7 ft. with a shelf running thru at the middle. Two shutters that had no catch to keep them closed . They’d be swinging in the breeze.
If you’d mistimed the oncoming train in your leap between platforms, or were crossing between trains when one of them decided to take off, or your head came to close to the electric pole between Khar and Bandra, this is where you ended up. Wrapped up in a sheet that gave recycling a whole new meaning. You’d make the sign of the cross as you went past if the cupboard was occupied. A sigh of relief if it was’nt. A prayer if both shelves were full.
And the next morning scanning the news paper you would see.
An unidentified male youth was run over at Bandra station. Wearing blue pants and white shirt at the time of the accident. Police are making efforts to identify the deceased.
You’d seen the blue pants peeping thru the rust colored sheet yesterday. He’d been gone by the time you got back from college. One day you’d be able to walk past the cupboard without caring wheter it was empty or full. Or even thinking to your self that ‘ that’s life’ or is it death.

Jan 22, 2008

Mama's don't let you babies grow up to be ...Mama's

As soon as Johnny Mario had fixed my Java I hit the road with not a care in the world. Not bothered about the famines in Ethiopia or the falling numbers of the Catholic church or even the rising numbers of the Emmanuel prayer group. When from the end of the leafy road I was cruising along emerged a Mama. , Yes a Mama in full regalia of khaki pants, white shirt, blue cap , red mouth ,( Paan ) blowing his whistle at me and waving me to a stop. I had my license, I had the bike papers, I had’nt run anyone over, I had’nt cut a one way. Or so I thought. The previous night some one had changed St. Cyrils Road to a one way. Or a No Entry depending which way you were headed. So the sneaky old Mama was making a killing. He took me to the head of the road and pointed out the No Entry sign ,[ the paint was still wet ]. And asked for my license. Glaring at me for being the criminal I was.
The fine for cutting the one way was a hundred rupees. So he whipped out his receipt book and asked me what I wanted to do. Multiple choice time.
a ] Pay up Rs.100 and be issued the ticket.{ I didn’t have the Rs. 100 so a] was out.}
b ] Hand over my license and retrieve it from the police station when I had Rs.100.
Then with an smile and a pat on the back to make me feel like his favourite nephew he explained option c ] .
With options a] and b] no credit would accrue to him or to me. Only the Government . And everbody knows that they don’t need any more money. Option c] Chai Pani.
On a fine of Rs. 100 he was willing to let me of the hook for Rs. 50. No receipt of course. But no trouble for me to go to the chowkie. No danger of my license getting misplaced on the long route from St. Cyrils Road to the chowkie. No trouble for anybody really. He didn’t help everyone like this. But he could see I was an honest guy. And how was I expected to know that overnight NO ENTRY was the new status of ST. Cyrils road. But I didn’t even have Rs. 50. So how much money did I have? Rs. 20. Twenty bucks. His sneer was heard all the way in Matharpackady. So he left me waiting while he wrote out tickets for some more unfortunates who were breaking the new No Entry. They paid their fine and were soon on their way. He came back to me and asked for the Rs. 20. He gave me my license back and told me to be more careful in the future. I got back on and headed back up St. Cyrils to take the long road home .

Jan 9, 2008

Lets go fly...!

A piece of paper, a few broom sticks [ from the stick broom not the grass type.]and some string. Put them together with a boy from Bandra and you have avionics that rival NASA.You pasted the paper onto the stick frame in what approximated a square. The paper had to be fine tissue papaer but if push came to shove even newspapaer would do. And then you tied a Kuni. One up zero down. Thats one finger measured horizontally above the upper connection of string to kite and and none at the lower end. Kite flying is not a spectator sport. The person who drew the short straw [ i.e. the smaller one who could be bullied ] was given the kite to hoist. He took the kite twenty odd metres away ,faced into the wind and when you yelled at him he would leap into the air and throw it as high as he could. Houston, we have lift off. If the flier didnt co-ordinate his hauling in of the string , ok Manja,, it was many attempts before the apple fell away from the ground. When it did the hoister had to charge back to the flier and stand a few paces upwind of him with the firki at the ready. [If you have to ask what a firki is go listen to Britney Spears.] He had to be ready to give deel. I.e. feed out the manja as your kite soared higher and higher. You had to get it between the telephone and electric wires. Then past the odd branch of the drumstick tree and finally past the television antennae that were the final gaurdians of the gates to the open skies.Then you got older and just flying a kite was not enough. Your manja had to have the finest glass on it to make it the sharpest. Your kite had to be reponsive to little flicks and tichkis for aerial sorties. Your point man who held the firki had to be tuned in to you to know when you wanted deel and when he had to lapete. You engaged in aerial combat [ ok Lugees]with squadrons of the Luftwaffe, from the buildings down the road. Jockeying for supremacy of the skies. Climbing high into the sun so that with one fell swoop the manja of lesser mortals gave way leaving their kite slowly floating away on the breeze. With a flood of chokra boys running after it. Waving long sticks with a twig tied at the end to ensnare the vanquished. And when you where vanquished you hauled your precious manja in as fast as you could before it snagged on the antennae or telephone cables or trees that you had skillfully manouvered thru on your way out. Your firki had to be in the hands of a master, to stop the manja you reeled in becoming one big gotala. This master would turn around and keep the tension on the manja by letting it pass between his legs while he spun the firki with both hands at a speed of twenty frames per second or more. Yeah I should have just said a blur of motion.The gurus of kite flying would engage in a lugee, slice their opponents with a skill that made Jack the Ripper look like Mr. Bean ,then capture the fallen kite in mid-air by entwining their manja with the trailing manja of the loser and then haul both kites in thru the maze . Skill ? The progeny of Neil Armstrong and Sunita Williams could'nt do it. With joint parentage . You have to be born in Bandra for that.

For any clarifications on the terminology pl address comments to Karl. [My cousin] whose Dad, my Uncle Giles taught me how to fly a kite. And who with his brothers Sylas and Elliot are among the afore mentioned Gurus.

Jan 4, 2008

Mango fruity, fresh and juicy.

In the beginning was the word and before the word there were open fields and trees. The owners of the trees fiercely guarded their right to partake of the fruit of their trees. They protected their trees form thieving kids [ i.e. us ] with large sticks and dogs that foamed at the mouth and wanted to bite into us with as much enthuiasm as we wanted to bite into their owners mangoes or jambuls or perus. So partaking of the fruit of the earth that God thru an oversight [ In the days before Google Earth ] had planted in the neighbours compound was not easy. It was fun and exciting but not easy.
The closer the tree to the house the sweeter and riper the fruit. The trees further away, beyond eyesight and earshot were easy pickings. so mangoes that had not come to full term and perus that were just barely enjoying their gauva youth were culled before they could ripen into mature adults. We'd fool ourselves into believing that these sour buds were actually tasty. The quantity of salt and chilly powder that went onto them to make the fit for human consumption would have softened shoe leather. While the peripheral fruit trees had been stripped bare the ones closer to the owners eyes would be bending over as the fruit ripened. Sorties would be planned between the time the owner went of for daily mass and his wife got back from her sodality meeting. Between his afternoon Sunday lunch and his 4 oclock tea,[siesta time i.e. ]. The breeze had to be blowing downwind of the dog. If he smelt thieves in his coumpound would break into a frenzy of barking that would have woken the dead in far away Haines Road cemetry. Jams ,jambuls, karvandas, boras, owlas, imlees, our cup ranneth over. But thru all our mauruding efforts there would still be enough left over to ripen. That the owner would pluck and some of which his wife would put into a bowl with a doily over it and send to Mummy. And they would lie in the fruit bowl untouched for days . Because stolen fruit really is the sweetest.